December 13, 2015

Falkovsky heads to Finland with reset button in hand

Losing their captain up front may be the biggest hole the 67's depth chart has going into the World Juniors, but physically, the largest omission from the lineup will be on the blueline as 6'9 Stepan Falkovsky heads over to Finland to play for Team Belarus.

He does so, however, without a long leash from the bench boss on his current team.

"In a lot of ways he's already there," says Jeff Brown on the mindset of his biggest blueliner.

"Really frustrated with his game, he's trying not to get hurt, he just hasn't been the same player recently."

Despite the criticism, Brown keeps running Falkovsky out, generally on his second pairing with Ryan Orban.

The opportunity to rise into a key cog for the Barberpoles is there for the taking, and a two-week trip overseas on the wide ice surface might be the best thing for him.

Falkovsky's at his best when he has more ice to work with, when his arms aren't bunched up as he tries to stickhandle, when he's able to unload his rocket of a slapshot.

A great skater and stickhandler for his size, the only time he gets himself into trouble is when he gets too nonchalant backtracking after making a play with the puck.

Perhaps playing on a wide ice surface, on a weak team against offensive powerhouses like Finland and Russia no less, will pull Falkovsky out of his comfort zone and force him to backtrack faster and close on opposing forwards quicker.


"He was as good as we had for October and most of November," added Brown.

Falkovsky's responsibility will be heightened with Team Belarus, where he'll almost certainly be on the team's top pairing with 19-year old Daniil Bokun.

The two are returning from last year's squad, where they played limited roles, but helped Belarus in their promotion from Division 1A.

Belarus hasn't played in the top division since 2007, where they pulled off a Boxing Day miracle to beat Finland in the tournament opener, before eventually flaming out and winding up in the relegation round.

Falkovsky, who was nine years old the last time his country played against the best of the best at the U-20 level, is largely responsible for helping them pull of another opening day miracle against Finland, as they get the host team to start the 2016 tournament.

Belarus gets Slovakia the next day, and rounds out the round robin against Russia and the Czech Republic.

If the Belorussians can't pull off any upsets, losing is surely going to start getting tiresome for Falkovsky, who temporarily leaves the 67's amidst their six-game losing streak.

Note:  After this article was published, Falkovsky did play one more game before his flight overseas, but was benched for the entire third period after being on the ice for three of six goals against in a disastrous second period.

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